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Coke's Crimes in Guatemala

International Rights Advocates, a non-profit human rights organization, and the Conrad and Scherer law firm filed a new civil lawsuit against The Coca-Cola Company. The case was first filed in the State Supreme Court in New York on February 25, 2010, and in April it was moved to the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York (Case # 10-CIV-03120).

The case involves a campaign of violence that includes rape, attempted murder and murder against two Guatemalan trade unionists and their families. The two trade unionists are Jose Armando Palacios, who was forced to flee to the U.S. in early 2006, and Jose Alberto Vicente Chavez, whose son and nephew were murdered and whose daughter was gang raped on March 1, 2008. (Watch the interview.)

Some find it unbelievable that human rights abuses--the systematic intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder--are occurring at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia and Guatemala. But it's not the first time Coke has committed such atrocities.

The back cover of a 1987 booklet, "Soft Drink, Hard Labour," published by the Latin America Bureau in London, England stated:

"For nine years the 450 workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Guatemala City fought a battle for their jobs, their trade union and their lives. Three times they occupied the plant — on the last occasion for 13 months. Three General Secretaries of their union were murdered and five other workers killed. Four more were kidnapped and have disappeared. Against all the odds they survived, thanks to their own extraordinary courage and help from fellow trade unionists in Guatemala and around the world."

The kinds of atrocities that happened at the Coke bottling plant in Guatemala City in the '70s and '80s continue to be an issue at Coke bottling plants in Colombia and in Guatemala

A memorial to murdered Guatemalan Coca-Cola union leaders. Photo excerpted from the film, "The Coca-Cola Case."

NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America), "Coca-Cola Sued for 'Campaign of Violence' in Guatemala," By Lisa Skeen, April 7, 2010
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"While Coke's commitment to human rights may be nothing more than a self-serving publicity ploy (the company's corporate responsibility office is managed through its Public Policy and Corporate Reputation Council), it may have unwittingly backed itself into a legal corner. If a court does find Coca-Cola guilty, the case could bring the company to task for the anti-labor violence and further establish a legal precedent for international corporate responsibility. Palacios and Chavez are not the first to sue Coca-Cola, and they are unlikely to be the last."

Bob Perillo and the Lawsuit against Coca-Cola in Guatemala

Letter from Bob Perillo, former Latin America liaison for U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP) regarding the lawsuit against Coca-Cola for human rights abuses in Guatemala. Mr. Perillo highlights the involvement of USLEAP, Ron Oswald, General Secretary of the IUF and Stan Gacek, presently with the AFL-CIO International Affairs Department, among others, in running interference for Coca-Cola in efforts to suppress this lawsuit.
Read Letter in English

"On Thursday, February 25, 2010, International Rights Advocates, a non-profit human rights organization, and the Conrad and Scherer law firm filed a new civil lawsuit against The Coca-Cola Company. The case involves a campaign of violence against two Guatemalan trade unionists and their families — including rape, murder, and attempted murder --at the behest of the management of INCASA, the owner of two Coca-Cola bottling plants and an instant-coffee plant (which also produces Coca-Cola syrup for fast-food restaurants) in Guatemala. The complaint against Coca-Cola can be viewed at http://www.killercoke.org/cokeguatcomplaint.doc. The two trade unionists are Jose Armando Palacios, who was forced to flee to the U.S. in early 2006, and Jose Alberto Vicente Chavez, whose son and nephew were murdered and whose daughter was gang raped on March 1, 2008."
En Español

"El viernes 25 de febrero de 2010, International Rights Advocates (Abogados de Derechos Internacionales), una organizacion de derechos humanos sin fines de lucro, asi como la firma juridica Conrad and Scherer, entablaron otra demanda civil contra Coca Cola S.A. por un caso que implica una campana de violencia - que incluye estupro, asesinato e intento de homicidio-- contra dos sindicalistas guatemaltecos y sus familias. Dichos crimenes se cometieron a instancias de la administracion de INCASA, propietaria de dos embotelladoras de Coca Cola y de una planta de cafe instantaneo (que tambien produce jarabe de Coca Cola para restaurantes de comida rapida) en Guatemala. Vease el texto de la demanda contra la Coca Cola en http://www.killercoke.org/cokeguatcomplaint.doc (en ingles). Los dos sindicalistas en cuestion son Jose Armando Palacios, quien fue obligado a huir a los EEUU a principios de 2006, y Jose Alberto Vicente Chavez, cuyos hijo y sobrino fueron asesinados y cuya hija fue violada en grupo el 1 de marzo de 2008."

VEE2.net, "Coke Hit with New Charges of Murder, Rape, Torture at their processing and bottling plants in Guatemala," By Maryanne Euthalia, March 4, 2010
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"A lawsuit (Case No. 10102514; Palacios et al. v. The Coca-Cola Co. and Does 1 through 10 inclusive) was filed on behalf of eight plaintiffs in the Supreme Court of the State of New York against The Coca-Cola Co. and Coke processing and bottling plants in Guatemala. This case involves charges of murder, rape and torture. The plaintiffs include union leaders and family members. This case has been brought in New York State because plaintiffs and other victims of human rights abuses lack access to an independent and functioning legal system within Guatemala, a country with a corrupt judiciary which has been undermined by the intimidation and murder of witnesses, prosecutors, lawyers and judges...'This case also presents evidence of Coca-Cola's direct involvement in trying to suppress the facts. Coca-Cola used the leverage of security for the family of Plaintiff Jose Palacios to try to get him to waive his employment rights and resign from his union. With this case, we finally have the evidence to get to a jury and let them decide if Coca-Cola is produced with the blood of union leaders and their family members. This case will expose the fraud of Coca-Cola's public relations campaign once and for all.' "

Bob Perillo responds to USLEAP's rebuttal to the letter below
Read the Perillo Response

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Coca-Cola faces new violence claims in Guatemala," By Jeremiah McWilliams, March 2, 2010
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"Guatemalan union leaders and their families are pursuing a lawsuit in a New York court against Coca-Cola Co., accusing the world's biggest beverage company of negligence and complicity in violence aimed at union activists, as well as deception. The case draws together a coalition of lawyers and activists who participated in previous legal battles against Coca-Cola centering on its labor practices in Colombia. The lead attorney is Terry Collingsworth, who has pushed lawsuits against Coca-Cola for a decade. The unofficial public relations wing is the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, one of the company's most aggressive and vociferous foes."
Press Release of March 1, 2010 regarding the lawsuit against Coca-Cola for human rights abuses in Guatemala.

Read Press Release on Organic Consumers Assn. website

2010 Complaint on behalf of Coca-Cola workers in Guatemala against The Coca-Cola Co.

Business Week (Bloomberg), "Coca-Cola Sued in U.S. by Guatemalans Over Anti-Union Violence," By Patricia Hurtado, February 27, 2010
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"Coca-Cola Co. was sued by Guatemalan workers who say they endured a 'campaign of violence' by people working on behalf of bottling and processing plants Coke owns or owned there after they engaged in union activities. Jose Armando Palacios of Guatemala and eight other plaintiffs filed the complaint Feb. 25 in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleging negligence, deceptive practices and other claims against Coca-Cola, the world's biggest soda maker."
Read article in Gulf News, Malasia

Free Speech Radio News,"Labor unions in Guatemala charge Coca-Cola with murder, torture," By Ari Paul, February 26, 2010
Listen to Segment

A lawsuit that involves labor unions, a multinational corporation and murder is spanning borders. Today, lawyers for labor activists subjected to torture and killings at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Guatemala filed a lawsuit against the company in a New York City court. The attorneys are highlighting a spike in violence against trade unionists in the Central American country. FSRN's Ari Paul reports. Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Director Ray Rogers is interviewed.